So, what is it about Wisconsin that makes Andrew Zimmern think he can focus an entire hour of his latest Travel Channel series, "Bizarre World," at 9 p.m. Tuesday on us?
"Wisconsin's the strangest place we've ever been," explained Zimmern during a chat Saturday afternoon at the Kohler Food and Wine Experience, where he'd just given a cooking demonstration. "And I say that as a Minnesotan. I live right next door, so I know how crazy things get up here in the Great White North."
OK, at this point you may be thinking, even though he's crossed the world from Bali to Berchtesgaren in search of strange foods and unusual experiences, where does he get off calling us bizarre?
But you have to understand that in Zimmern's dictionary, bizarre isn't a criticism. And it's not meant as an insult.
"We like to think that we've redefined the word," he said. "It would be really easy ... that when I'm sitting there with a little Mayan grandma who stands about 4-feet, 1-inches tall and she's making pig's face tamales, I can make a lot of jokes at her expense.
"But the fact of the matter is that I'm in someone's home, they're desperately impoverished and they've just taken 35 percent of their family's net worth and they've put it on the table for me to eat. At that point, no matter what, no matter what, I would be a rude rube to do anything other than celebrate her culture," he said.
As for his take on Wisconsin's culture, Zimmern explained it thusly:
"Here's what we found when we were here: People who are not concerned about what people think about them, they want to have fun with their friends and family, and they want to celebrate their own local culture.
"There are a lot of other states ... where people are a little too busy trying to be something that they're not. Nobody in Milwaukee or Madison or Lake Tomahawk or Wausau wants to be New York. They just want to be themselves, and they want to enjoy their community.
"That's a very special thing in this world," he said."Most places don't really live their brand. Wisconsinites live their brand."
Wisconsin's best known brand, of course, comes from the nickname: America's Dairyland. And Zimmern's Wisconsin travels, of course, included a cheese factory.
A really stinky one.
"We got to hang out at the Chalet Cheese Company, with my buddy, Myron Olson, and make the world's stinkiest cheese; you know, (it's) the last real Limburger place left. All made 100 percent."
He also hit a number of Milwaukee-area spots -- including a Milwaukee fish fry, with chef Sandy D'Amato and his wife, Angie.
In addition to his Travel Channel work, Zimmern blogs for Minneapolis-St. Paul magazine, where he also writes a monthly column, and has his own Web site. His first book, "The Bizarre Truth" was published last month.
On TV: NBC has given full-season pickups to "Community," Amy Poehler's "Parks and Recreation" and medical drama "Mercy." That means the network is gambling on "Community," created by ComedySportz Milwaukee veteran Dan Harmon and featuring Marquette University grad Danny Pudi on building an audience through the season.
- Fred D'Ambrosi, the feisty news director at Channel 12 from 1986 to 1997, has moved from San Diego's KFMB-TV to become new director at Gannett-owned WUSA-TV in Washington, D.C., according to DCRTV , which covers Washington broadcast media.
- Ashlee Simpson-Wentz and Colin Egglesfield have been dumped from the CW Network remake of "Melrose Place," according to Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello.
- Speaking of the well-sourced Ausiello, he has the scoop on Whitefish Bay boy Sam Page joining ABC Family's "Greek" in its fourth season.
- Thursday's series premiere of Comedy Central's "Jeff Dunham Show" was the biggest series premiere on the cable channel, pulling in 5.3 million viewers, 3 million of them in the 18-49 age group, according to Nielsen Media Research Numbers.
Here comes "24": Thanks to The Wrap's TV Mojoe, I was led to the leaked first two promos for the new season of Fox's "24," which starts its run on Jan. 17.
The first one opens funny, with Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer as a grandpa.
Unless they're pulled, the promos follow below:
Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for OnMilwaukee.com. He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.
A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.
In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at OnMilwaukee.com.
When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.